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James v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

January 2, 2014

GILBERT JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on DEFENDANT EXPERIAN SOLUTIONS, INC.'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO REASSIGN CASE (Docket No. 11) and PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO STRIKE DEFENDANT'S REPLY IN SUPPPORT OF ITS MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO REASSIGN CASE (Docket No. 27). For the reasons set forth below, DEFENDANT EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC.'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. 1401(a) OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO REASSIGN CASE (Docket No. 11) will be denied and PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO STRIKE DEFENDANT'S REPLY IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO REASSIGN CASE (Docket No. 27) will be denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, Gilbert James, Susan Chandler, Theresa Hood, Adedayo Peterson, and Joyce Ridgley filed a complaint against Experian Information Solutions, Inc. ("Experian") on December 26, 2012. All Plaintiffs allege violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. The specific details of each Plaintiff's claims differ slightly, but all of them make the following allegations: (1) Plaintiffs all filed disputes as to information in their Experian credit reports, thereby alerting Experian in writing of the erroneous information; (2) Plaintiffs did not satisfy Experian's policy that all dispute notifications from consumers must include certain consumer information, specifically, the consumer's full social security number, previous addresses for the past two years, full name, date of birth, a copy of a government issued identification card, and a copy of a utility bill or bank statement; and (3) Experian did not correct Plaintiffs' credit reports. Experian does not require similarly detailed information from banking industry customers to whom it sells these consumer credit reports. (Compl. ¶ 28-29.) Plaintiffs allege that Experian's demand for this detailed information from individual consumers before taking any action on the consumer's dispute violated the FCRA. Plaintiffs also allege that the placement of these additional burdens on individual consumers is a deliberate attempt on the part of Experian to avoid resolving the individuals' disputes, and that this practice violates the FCRA. (Compl. ¶ 33.)

Plaintiffs bring their claim on behalf of other individuals similarly situated, and allege facts to support their proceeding as a "class" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. (Compl. ¶¶ 38-43.)

LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Transfer of Venue

According to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." The statute "is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh, Inc. , 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack , 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). The party requesting a change of venue has the burden of demonstrating that a transfer of venue is warranted. Original Creatine Patent Co., Ltd. v. Met-Rx USA, Inc. , 387 F.Supp.2d 564, 566 (E.D. Va. 2005).

When deciding a motion to transfer venue, the Court must assess two issues: (1) Could the Plaintiffs' claims have been brought in the proposed transferee forum; and (2) Is the transfer justified when considering the interests of justice and convenience of the parties? See Koh v. Microtek Int'l Inc. , 250 F.Supp.2d 627, 630 (E.D. Va. 2003). Each issue will be discussed seriatim.

1. Is Venue In The Transferee Forum Proper?

A transfer of venue may only be granted "if the plaintiff could have maintained the action in the target forum." Taltwell, LLC v. Zonet USA Corp. , 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93465, at *32 (E.D. Va. Dec. 20, 2007). Venue is proper in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). Venue is also proper in a judicial district in which any defendant is a resident. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1). As a corporation, Experian "resides" in a district in which it would be subject to the court's personal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2).

Experian is an Ohio corporation with its headquarters and principal place of business in Costa Mesa, California. Experian proposes to transfer venue to the Northern District of Texas where its National Consumer Assistance Center ("NCAC") is located in Allen, Texas. That office, says Experian, is primarily responsible for handling consumer disputes, including those alleged by Plaintiffs. Experian alleges that all of its relevant documents are likely located in Allen, Texas, as are many of its likely witnesses.

It appears that, because Experian's NCAC is located in Allen, Texas, Experian has the minimum contacts with Texas to warrant the local District Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over it there.[1] Additionally, a "substantial part" of the actions that created Plaintiffs' claims occurred in Experian's NCAC from which Experian likely sent Plaintiffs the written requests for more information that are the crux ...


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